AMD Blasts Intel's New Thunderbolt, Sandy Bridge Technologies

AMD this week tried to discredit rival Intel's new Thunderbolt optical cable technology and Sandy Bridge integrated graphics processors for their purported lack of sufficient performance enhancements and market suitability -- and revealed new details for its upcoming Llano Fusion APU in the process.

An AMD spokesperson said Intel's Thunderbolt input/output technology does not offer a substantial performance upgrade compared to pre-existing alternatives that are compatible with AMD technology, X-bit labs reported on Monday. "The total bandwidth stated for a Thunderbolt channel is only 20 percent higher than one PCI Express 3.0 lane and about 52 percent higher than a single USB 3.0 port," the AMD spokesperson said, according to X-bit labs.

AMD said that Thunderbolt in fact lowers bandwidth for displays connected to its mini DisplayPort, compared to AMD's throughput options. "AMD-based platforms support USB 3.0 which offers 4.8 Gb/s of peak bandwidth, AMD natively supports SATA 6Gb/s with our 8-series chipsets," the AMD spokesperson reportedly said. "Existing standards offer remarkable connectivity and together far exceed the 10 Gb/s peak bandwidth of Thunderbolt. These solutions meet and exceed the bandwidth utilization of many peripherals."

Intel couldn't be reached for comment regarding AMD's view of Intel's Sandy Bridge or Thunderbolt technology.

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According to the report, AMD said USB 3.0 technology is preferable to Intel's Thunderbolt since there are already many peripherals that support USB 3.0 -- although Thunderbolt only launched last Thursday and Intel says it is quicker to implement than previous optical connectivity standards.

Apple updated its Macbook Pro line with both Intel's Thunderbolt and Sandy Bridge platforms last week, replacing its Intel Core 2 Duo processors and bringing optical cable technology to the Mac platform. The refreshed 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro systems also include a discrete AMD Radeon graphics card running alongside Intel's Sandy Bridge platform.

Intel's Thunderbolt, previously code-named Light Peak, aims to replace an existing plethora of incompatible interfaces such as SATA, eSATA, USB, FireWire, PCI Express and DisplayPort by supporting some existing options including FireWire and DisplayPort while accelerating the transfer of data. The MacBook Pro is the first PC product to feature Thunderbolt, but it will roll out across manufacturers in the coming year.

Next: AMD Demonstrates Llano Versus Intel Core i7

In addition, AMD on Wednesday at CeBit 2011 in Hanover demonstrated its Llano Fusion APU with a video comparing it favorably to Intel's Sandy Bridge processor. The unreleased Llano was tested against a high-end Intel Core i7-2630QM Sandy Bridge chip in a range of multi-tasking applications that leverage both the CPU and GPU capabilities on each company's integrated chipsets. AMD released the video, which shows Llano achieving higher benchmarks on select workloads and achieving lower power consumption figures as well.

The video reveals a new naming scheme for AMD's Fusion platform. The Llano processor is listed as the quad-core A8-3510MX , the integrated GPU is identified as AMD Radeon HD 6620M, and a previously unmentioned AMD A70M Fusion Controller Hub chipset also appears briefly.

In a blog post Monday, Godfrey Cheng, AMD's director of Client Technology compared AMD's Llano Fusion APU to Intel's Sandy Bridge integrated graphics platform.

"AMD’s 'Llano' and Intel’s 'Sandy Bridge' are roughly equal in size and transistor count," Chang wrote. "But that’s where the similarities end. An analysis of the two components’ die area shows that AMD has invested much more heavily in graphics, parallel compute and video whereas Intel has invested much more of its silicon area in improving classic x86 performance."

Chang emphasized the difference between AMD's silicon investment strategy compared to Intel's, saying AMD addressed predominant usage models. "It is great to see our competitor acknowledge the importance of graphics and video, but AMD has made much more tangible investments in these modern graphical and video centric workloads," Chang wrote.

Chang referred to the x86 CPU architecture and said that while AMD still offers powerful central processing capability, it no longer needs to chase what Chang referred to as a phantom x86 bottleneck.

"Our CPUs are not x86 slouches, but our goal is not to achieve x86 benchmark supremacy because it just doesn’t matter," Chang wrote. "x86 performance no longer determines a consumer’s overall experience with their computer. The ability to handle graphics and video are much more critical."

Next: Details on Llano And Sandy Bridge Llano is the codename for what AMD terms an APU (Accelerated Processing Unit), which is a fusion of the CPU and GPU on to one piece of silicon. Llano brings together a dual- or quad-core CPU and mid-range DX11 GPU on to one chip, and it's modular enough to be scaled for laptop and low-to-mid-range desktop usage with ease.

Llano, which includes dual-core and quad-core CPUs combined with mid-range DX 11 graphics processing on a single die, is scheduled to begin shipping inside laptops and desktops in Q3, according to AMD's product roadmap.

In comparison to its expected performance, Intel's Sandy Bridge , in Core i7 2600K and Core i5 2500K processors include an integrated high-res graphics processing unit, and afford the most accessibility yet to system clock settings. CRN Test Center in January ran the quad-core 3.4GHz Core i7 2600K, which easily beat the Test Center's performance records for a quad-core desktop platform with a peak Geekbench score of 12,286.